The whole ‘them and us’ attitude to paying tax, exposed by the release of the Paradise Papers, should kick-start a complete reform of secretive tax havens, Unite, the country’s largest union, said today (Monday 6 November).
Unite said it was ‘outrageous’ that while those on zero-hour contracts and in low paid employment were expected to pay tax on their wages ‘to the last penny’, the rich and powerful could ‘squirrel’ away millions in offshore accounts.
The union said that the Tories' reluctance to act is related to their direct benefit from the tax affairs of Tory donor Lord Ashcroft, who has given £10m to the party in recent years, and has been revealed as one of those hiding his £340m out of the taxpayers' reach.
Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey, said:
"Taxpayers will be furious at the efforts of the super-rich and their advisors, including the Queen’s, go to dodge paying their fair share of tax.
"These tax avoidance schemes may be legal, but there is deep anger and disgust about the ‘them and us’ attitude to paying tax revealed in the Paradise Papers.
"The prime minister’s refusal this morning to commit to introducing a public register of who owns offshore companies and trusts in British tax havens, or to opening a public inquiry into tax avoidance, is to be strongly deplored.
“Those struggling to put food on the table for their families and to pay their mortgages and rents are expected to pay every penny of tax on the dot, but there is a parallel financial universe for the global elite, using fancy accounting instruments and legal wheezes to protect their mountains of cash from the taxman.
“Money clawed back from tax avoidance schemes could pay for much needed new schools, a massive cash injection in the NHS and public investment in house building and infrastructure projects.
“Labour shows that the UK government could make a difference today if it wanted to.
“Shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, is spot on to call for a full public inquiry into tax avoidance and for a full register into all companies and trusts. There needs to be much greater transparency and scrutiny.
“The government should refuse public contracts to tax avoiders - it is the government’s duty to use public money responsibly, and lining the pockets of tax dodgers is not doing so.
“The tax avoidance industry that secretes the billions of the tax dodging elite needs to be outlawed.
“Tax avoidance is as immoral as tax evasion. If you want to trade, work or live in the UK, then the message is simple - pay your proper share of taxes.
“This is a global problem that needs concerted international action, but there is nothing to stop Theresa May’s government taking the lead on this with robust proposals – and the budget on 22 November would be a good place to start.”